'Sorry about that,' Bran said as he closed the door. 'I did tell people I had a guest this weekend.'
Will, perched rather awkwardly on the edge of Bran's bed, said nothing. But his gaze was roaming about, trying to come to terms with the sheer amount of clutter that filled his normally tidy friend’s room. There were piles of flyers and rolled posters crammed into every available corner, as well as one or two boldly-lettered placards propped up against the little wall space that was left over. Bran's desk was a sea of leaflets and what appeared to be class notes, all mixed together and pinned down by textbooks -- and the reason that Will was seated so uncomfortably on the bed was the fact that he had to share the space with still more flyers, as well as a battered old typewriter.
Bran hurriedly moved the flyers and the typewriter to the floor. 'Sorry. But really, you should've let me know that you were taking the earlier train.'
'I know -- look, I'm not making you miss anything, am I?' Now that the bed was clear there was room for Will to sit more comfortably, but even so he didn't feel any less awkward in his new position. With the toe of one shoe, he nudged the flyers that Bran had moved to the floor, and thought fleetingly of fire hazards. 'That girl...she seemed rather upset that you weren't going to make it to the meeting tonight.'
'I organised that meeting,' Bran said, mildly exasperated. 'I'm allowed to miss a few of them -- that's what we have deputy chairs and all that for.' He dragged his desk chair over to the bed, dumped his schoolbag onto the floor, and sat down. 'This weekend, I'm entirely at your disposal.'
Will smiled, forcing himself to relax. 'Well, then. It's your town, what do you suggest we do?'
Bran pursed his mouth, thinking. 'Well, we could do the usual thing that's done on Friday nights around here, which normally involves a sizeable number of pints of whatever beer is cheapest. Or we could get takeaway and come back here -- or take it elsewhere,' he added, seeing a momentary flicker of alarm cross Will's face, 'and you can tell me what it's like at your uni.'
'The beer's probably more expensive there, for a start.' Will paused, gnawing his lip in an effort to decide whether or not he should say what had been on his mind since the moment he had shown up at Bran's door. 'Bran, I'm going to ask this now, so it won't come up again, but...why?'
For a moment, Bran's expression went sharp and defensive. It was the old arrogance that Will had seen often enough before, only now it was combined with an unfamiliar hostility that Will didn't like at all. But that expression only lasted for a moment, and soon it faded to a sort of weariness that Will recognised at once -- the weariness of one who has been struggling with a burden for so long that the struggle and the burden have become almost indistinguishable.
'Why Plaid Cymru, you mean?' Bran looked away, fixing his gaze on the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg placard that was propped up against his desk. 'You'll probably laugh, but...but it means something, here. And it means I'm involved in something that matters, to me and to a lot of other people.'
He took a breath, almost as if he intended to leave it at that, but when he let the breath out the words kept coming. 'And I'm good at it, at the committees and the protests and the organising and all of it -- or at least everyone says so.'
'You're good at leading people.' Will's voice was flat, if only because he didn't know where the emphasis should fall in that sentence. He didn't quite trust himself to know where to put it.
Bran shrugged, though it was a lopsided shrug that only used one shoulder. 'Something like that.' He glanced over at Will, a sidelong glance. 'So? What of it?'
'Just...just wondering, ' Will said, rather lamely. 'To tell the truth, I'm not at all surprised.' It was all too easy to imagine Bran giving a speech or organising a student meeting or planning a demonstration -- and all too easy to wish that he could be there, if only to watch.
Bran raised one eyebrow, very slightly.
Some deeper, older, and infinitely more sensible part of Will's mind warned him that the conversation was turning in potentially dangerous directions, so he fell back on his old stand-by topic: food. 'Come on, then -- dinner's on me tonight, so long as you don't pick the most expensive thing on the menu.'
'Dinner?' Bran blinked, a little disconcerted by the abrupt shift in topic, but he seemed as eager as Will for the chance to change the subject. 'And what if it's what I was planning to order anyway, hm?'
'Then I get to eat half of it, and we'll split the cost.'
Bran snorted, but it sounded as if he was trying to cover a laugh. 'You have the most infuriatingly logical mind, Stanton.'
'I'm only logical when I'm hungry,' Will replied, grinning. 'Which I am now.'
'Aww,' Bran said with exaggerated sympathy, 'didn't British Rail feed you?'
'Feed me?' Will made a not-entirely-mock-horrified face. 'Their definition of "food" and my definition of "food" are entirely incompatible. Not even in the same dictionary.'
'Then by all means, let's go find out what your definition of food is.' Bran stood up, and shoved his desk chair back into place.
Will slid off the bed, trying not to step on the leaflets.
'Lead the way,' he said.